By Jared Huizenga – Contributing Writer
It seems like just a few years ago I was thinking that we were really due for more shark movies.
“Jaws” was a long time ago after all, and while I loved 2003’s “Open Water,” I understand why more people didn’t. Beyond those, the only ones in recent memory I could think of were “Deep Blue Sea” and those Megabeast vs. other Megabeast straight-to-video releases.
Then something happened … somehow SyFy, Tara Reid, Ian Ziering and a rotating cast of aging celebs teamed up to make shark movies cool (or at least campy chic) again.
The renewed interest, however, has led to far more quantity than quality. Frankly, the low quality led me to be over sharks even quicker than I was zombies.
That drought, at least in my mind, has ended with the surprisingly enjoyable “47 Meters Down.”
Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) are sisters, but they couldn’t be any more different from one another. Younger sister Kate is the adventurous world traveler whom guys have flocked to forever, while older sister Lisa is the more grounded and “boring” half of the duo.
In an attempt to change that perception, and hopefully win back the affections of her beau, Lisa drags Kate on a Mexican vacation in search of fun and adventure.
The morning after a night flush with booze and loud music – along with handsome local men – the sisters end up on a sketchy looking ship captained by Taylor (Matthew Modine), and shortly thereafter inside of an even sketchier looking shark cage.
Soon the sketchy-looking equipment proves that in this case the sisters could/should have judged the book by its cover, they find themselves 47 meters below the surface in shark-infested waters, running out of oxygen and what at least appears to be less than optimal chances of survival.
While I won’t go so far as to classify “47 Meters Down” as a true, classic horror film, there are certainly elements that I (and the jumpy young lady a couple of seats down from me) found somewhere between chilling and terrifying.
First, apparently to the dismay of the aforementioned young lady, the film features sharks aplenty. In dark, deep water. You do math and you’ll figure out that there’s more than enough jump scares to satisfy. And even in the most obvious of instances, most of them are pretty successful.
For me, however, the true scary moments come in the form of what the sisters go through – they’re confined in a fairly tight spot with no real viable mode of escape (terrifying) and at several points they struggle with their breathing and gasp for breath (also terrifying).
Much of the credit for that belongs to director/screenwriter Johannes Roberts. Despite clocking in at just 85 minutes, Roberts managed to give the movie a slow burn feel – the action never felt rushed, there weren’t any huge gaps in either the story or the characters’ backstories, and the resolution felt complete. In hindsight, the length was perfect – any shorter and it would’ve felt incomplete, any longer and it would’ve started dragging.
Given that before this Roberts’ biggest claim to fame was writing and directing the lowest grossing film in the U.S. of 2013 ($72 for “Storage 24”), I’m pleasantly surprised with the results.
Honestly, everything leading up to this movie had me believing I was in for a bad time – the trailers, the posters, the shark fatigue – but all in all, “47 Meters Down” provided enough fun and enough scares to keep my attention throughout. If you look at is as more of a thriller than as just a monster/thing/creature film, you’ll find the scarier aspects and probably enjoy it a lot more.
★★★★ of ★★★★★
Jared Huizenga is a freelance movie critic. Follow his work at www.facebook.com/JaredMovies.